Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Need a job?

Found this little ditty while surfing the net for a new phone - link. Apparently Hrithik & Yana are big enough stars to headline an international promotion from a multi-billion dollar corporation such as Sony - bahot khubh! It also drives home the point that Bollywood is getting more popular everyday (although I would have picked an actress with more gravitas than Yana Gupta). But this is a minor quibble and have posted a video starring the lovely Ms. Gupta below - the song is Mehbooba from 'Sholay' and sung by the maestro himself, R.D. Burman.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chak De India (2007)

'Chak De India' was the next SRK movie I saw after 'Om Shanti Om' and in both of them I was immediately struck by something - wow, this guy can actually act if he lets himself do so. Don't get me wrong - I am not a SRK hater and in fact seek out his movies because his popularity gets quality films green lit (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Mohabattein, Veer Zaara, etc). It's just that as his popularity grew he just coasted by in every movie playing his alter-ego Rahul and never really strayed far from the character that brought him so much fame & fortune. But the great ones eventually do so if they want to be remembered more than a one-trick pony. Like Dilip Kumar in 'Amar' & Amitabh Bachchan in 'Sholay' - they need to do more than just play themselves, save the day and end up with the girl at the end. SRK seems to have done this very thing with 'Chak De India' - an homage to the Hollywood movie 'A League of Their Own'.

SRK chooses to play the character quite differently than his counterpart Tom Hanks did. He plays a Muslim in this movie (something he rarely does) that loses a high profile field hockey match that in turn questions his allegiance to his own country. This is not some fake Bollywood made up stuff - it is something I have witnessed in India and was completely taken back by. To be told that you are not a patriot just because you are not Hindu and that you should go 'back to Pakistan' is still a sentiment that rears it's ugly head all too often. But this movie is about much more than that - it's also about girl power in a male-dominated society and how people from different parts of India can come together for a common cause. Sure, it's a sports movie so you know everything is going to work out in the end. But the sheer talent of the actors (SRK included), lack of any silly melodrama/slapstick comedy/love interest and mature exploration of controversial subject matter all combine to make this a top notch film. Keeping with the sports theme the movie had precious few songs but Maula Mere was the clear stand out and is sung by Salim-Sulaiman.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pyaasa (1957)

A movie that begins with a poet whose works are sold by his family for scrap who then follows a prostitute who is serenading him with his own poetry in attempt to woo him as a customer is not a typical way to start out a Bollywood movie. But then again a film that ended up on Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time and was just one of two Indian movies on that storied list cannot be considered typical by any definition. The tale of a brilliant poet, Vijay, who loses both his true love and family (but never his dignity) in an attempt to reach out to the world with his art is handled with both deft and brilliance. It is a stunning exploration of both the cruelty of the world as well as the gentleness found in places one least expects it. The movie ends with the runaway success of his poetry at a cost that ultimately becomes too much for him to bear.

Waheeda Rehman (in only her second movie) dazzles in every scene she is in and Dutt's use of light and framing of shots is well ahead of it's time - little wonder that 'The Times of London' christened him 'India's version of Orson Welles' when this movie first came out. Some of the acting is a little melodramatic as was custom of the day and if you don't understand Urdu the lack of subtitles during the songs & poetry recitals can be maddening. But those things will not take away from the richness of this movie which recently celebrated it's 50th anniversary, and as his admirers have often said - 'He did not make films, he made poetry.'

The song for today is 'Jane Kya Tunhe Kahi' which was sung by Guru Dutt's wife, Geeta Dutt. Though not as well known as other female playback singers of the day her style & voice were nonetheless hauntingly beautiful in a very unique way. S.D. Burman's music provides the perfect backdrop to the movie and all the songs are considered classics even today. The Dutts divorced shortly after the completion of this movie and although he is considered a visionary today - the eight movies he made were considered only modest successes. Depressed by his perceived failure and his constant pursuit of perfection which could never be reached, Guru Dutt committed suicide before his 40th birthday by ingesting a mixture of alcohol and sleeping pills. Geeta never recovered from their divorce or his death and drank herself to a slow death just a few years later. Below is the first song in the movie and Geeta Dutt's contribution to her husband's masterpiece, 'Pyaasa' - 50 years on...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Guide (1965) & 'K For Kishore'

So I really tried to get away from yet another post about a Kishore Kumar song but alas, it was not meant to be. It was a sign from above, literally, as we were watching Sony TV via satellite over the holidays. First we saw the Filmfare Awards from last year with SRK performing host duties all complete with the obligatory shot of Big B followed by a shot of Rekha immediately after. In between there was trivia aplenty about the Filmfare Awards themselves (the Bollywood equivalent of the Oscars). One of those tidbits was regarding the movie 'Guide' starring Dev Anand & Waheeda Rehman which swept the awards of Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress & Best Screenplay.

This now legendary movie was shot simultaneously in both Hindi & English and was ahead of it's time in both story & technical aspects. Waheeda Rehman's advisers told her it would be 'career suicide' to play the controversial role for which she ultimately won both critical and commercial acclaim. It is deep & moving film - see it without the benefit knowing too much about the story and your time will be well rewarded. S.D. Burman provided the soundtrack for the film which is often considered the 3rd star of the movie but didn't win any awards for his efforts. The most famous song from the movie is just as fresh and amazing as the day it was released but again went home empty handed at the Filmfares. Which brings me to the other reason I wrote about Kishore today...

Immediately after the awards show we watched a new singing competition whose premiere was the biggest debut on Sony TV for an original series. It is called 'K for Kishore' and pits 20 contestants culled from throughout India in an effort to find that one singer that not only sounds like Kishore but emulates his spirit as well. The judges include Amit Kumar (Kishore's 1st son), Bappi Lahiri & the singer Sudesh Bhonsle. It was then that I realized that I was not alone in missing Kishoreda - that everyone from the 20 year old contestant who was born after Kishore's death to the 60 year old grandfather who learned to sing every Kishoreda song ever recorded and has his picture in his mandir - missed him as well and that he is still relevant now despite all the years since his passing. The song for today is 'Gaate Rahe' (a duet by Kishore & Lata) whose sweet melody, amazing picturisation, poetic lyrics and the strength of Kishore' voice as he holds those first few notes seemingly forever makes this one of my all time favorites and the perfect song to open the new year. Happy 2008 and thanks to everyone for all of your support and good wishes!